No Happy Anniversary for Occupy Wall Street

Movement 'celebrates' first year despite having nothing to celebrate

By Kyle Woodley, InvestorPlace Managing Editor

Occupy Wall Street marks 1st anniversary with marches, party hats”

As I read this Los Angeles Times headline, I couldn’t help but think: “Wouldn’t black veils have been more apropos?”

Occupy Wall Street did indeed mark its first anniversary today, but it sure wasn’t a cause for celebration. For all intents and purposes, OWS has been a colossal failure.

After all, Occupy Wall Street, in its infancy, set out to …

… well, hell. What did it set out to do?

That question — and its lack of answer — is precisely why OWS’ first anniversary came and went with a rekindling of last year’s flame, not a revitalized continuation.

Occupy Wall Street, at its best, was a flash-bang idea that briefly united scores of people across the country to protest the gross disparity between the haves and have-nots. At its worst, it was a nebulous concept — poorly organized and poorly led — that not only never solved any of the problems it sought to combat, but really never even pinpointed them.

I took a jab at Occupy Wall Street last year when Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) balked on charging debit-card fees — no thanks to OWS protestors, but instead as a response to the almighty power of action-backed consumer bitching.

Spotlighted were the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, as well as Kristen Christian, who helped organize “Bank Transfer Day.” Those figures shouldn’t get full credit for the sum of BofA’s consumer backlash, but they certainly get some — and they illustrate one of the core failures of the OWS movement.

Occupy Wall Street was, as InvestorPlace Editor Jeff Reeves aptly summed it up, without leadership and focus, among numerous other shortcomings.

There were no demands. There were no clear goals. Heck, there were no clear enemies. “Wall Street,” one supposes, but how far Wall Street extended was up for contention. Big-bank fat-cats? All publicly traded companies? Investors? (And not just institutional investors, but anyone — that’s you, mom and pop — tied in through a 401k?) The free market itself?

We’ll never know. We never got a policy statement.

All we got were some camps, some chants, some signs and some blocked traffic. And, of course, people decrying corporate greed … hours after standing in line at the local Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX).

Or my favorite — a protestor with a megaphone who just bellowed “Jesus! Jesus!” on perpetual repeat. (Though I’ll give OWS the benefit of the doubt and guess that he was just tagging along for the ride.)

No doubt, disparaging comments from someone working at a company named InvestorPlace will be taken with a grain of salt, then the rest of the shaker. Fair’s fair, but you should know I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the beliefs held by OWS supporters. Like science, I embrace the free market. But like science, I don’t always agree with the results of the “We’re all about coulda, not shoulda” mentality (thanks, Patton Oswalt!) that the free market likewise has adopted.

But those results — things Occupy Wall Street bemoans, such as CEOs with exorbitant pay or shaved payrolls thanks to a profits-above-all-else mind-set — never will be addressed when their opposition is an unwashed, blinded-by-anger mob whose solution remains unstated.

All we’ll get is a yearly reminder, every Sept. 17, of a broken idealist siege.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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